Occasionally rural Thailand can throw up a surprise or two and a chance visit to the Steak Baan Tung restaurant in Udon Thani’s countryside was the source for one of those eye-opening moments for me.
The restaurant is 40 kilometres from Udon Thani city and in a place I would hardly have expected to find a brick-built eatery of such high standards. The Steak Baan Tung restaurant is a couple of kilometres outside the rural town of Phen and its pleasant but innocuous appearance from the outside shields a very stylish and roomy restaurant inside.
The restaurant has ample parking space and its doors open early as our mid morning arrival proved. The doors were open but no-one was about as the owner, who is also the chef, had popped out to stock up on vegetables.
That was the message relayed to us and when the owner did arrive a good 20 minutes later, our group of hungry brunch-ers were ready, waiting and absolutely starving. And by that time the four of us had already selected what we wanted from the menu. Not that her smile wasn’t worth waiting for.
The restaurant had a very stylish fan-cooled interior design which from my experience was very different to most rural restaurants I’d dined in. Maybe ‘dined in’ is dressing up some of the country eating houses my memory recalls. This restaurant whispered in your ear, ‘get me out of here and take me to the city where I belong’.
The second surprise of the morning arrived on a plate. My pork steak and sweetcorn was served before Wonderful Wi’s meal and that was a rare occurrence from my recollection of the scores of restaurant meals we’ve eaten together. My food normally drops anchor a long time after Wilai’s.
Wilai and one of her cousins, Mae, opted for a kind of omelette served in a pan. I’m sure those are green garden peas in the picture. I didn’t realise Thais ate them. Are they peas?
Cousin Goon chose a kind of Thai suki hotpot and each dish was served with a sauce, one of which looked the spicy sort you wouldn’t want to dip your finger into. I tend to avoid Thai sauces and dips unless it’s got a bloody big red tomato on the bottle.
A 10 ounce (275g) T-Bone Steak is only 179 baht and my large Creole Pork Chop weighed in at just 79 baht. The total bill, which included two coffees, was a mere 230 baht (US$7.50/UK£4.60). That’s a very modest bill for an extremely stylish country restaurant and its menu is one I intend to visit again and again. I’m already eyeing the Grilled Salmon (149 baht) for next time.
I usually find (yes, I’m generalising) Thai rural restaurants to be cute looking but modestly furnished meat-and-rice type of places. They’re very homely, but limited in a culinary sense to a no-nonsense western tongue. The Steak Baan Tung restaurant near Amphoe Phen is different, at least for me, it’s a city style restaurant in boonie-land and one which I highly recommend. And the best thing of all…. it’s a bumpy but bare 25 kilometres from our village home…. Bring on the salmon.
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